I'm sitting at home in a daze induced by the worst cold of my life - the few operating brain cells mostly sucked up in aimless Web meandering trying to understand the War and the world better, but mostly I'm learning things things about the Web instead. To a ghostly soundtrack of Baghdad night sounds (cars and their horns mostly) from the teeny MSNBC Baghdad Cam in the screen's corner, I wonder if Yahoo is dead, and maybe publishing too, and what it is we're making up here as we go along?
I used to visit My Yahoo more than any other single website; a quick look first thing in the morning and several revisits later in the day; I had it aggregating some well-known news sources, local weather and the state of the stockmarket; it did these things well and got out of the way.
No more. The only reason I need to go there is to check stock prices (Hmm... if there isn't a way to get an RSS feed for an individual equity, there damn soon will be, what a no-brainer), because RSS aggregates way more interesting stuff and does it quicker, and via NetNewsWire, gives me a much nicer inteface to it. I'm a pretty typical Net user, so I suspect that a lot of other people will come to the same conclusion before too long. Where does that leave Yahoo?
Their business model has always been to figure out what people want to do
on the Web and get there first and do a good job.
Search, travel, weather, finance; if you need to do XXX on the net, then
XXX.yahoo.com into a browser usually will get you a
pretty good result.
Google took search away from them, and with the Pyra purchase I'd say they're trying to grab at least part of the news-aggregation space. What does Yahoo do next? They're by and large pretty smart in my experience, so it should be fun to watch.
In fact, what does the publishing industry do next? I no longer buy, and can't remember the last time I read, a printed technology trade publication. Somebody must, because they still interview me about XML or Antarctica and when they do, we get leads and website traffic. But I really wonder what you find in there that you can't get off a few good technology-oriented RSS feeds.
And, widening the spotlight beam, what about journalism in general? On this war, the blogs are just qualitatively, significantly, unsubtlely better than the mainstream newsflow. “Blog” doesn't imply “amateur” or “non-journo” - the taut, here's-what-I-saw dispatches on the BBC reporters' log tells you more than the homogenized voice-smoothed version that eventually makes it to the BBC's front page. Is the future of journalism no more than putting somebody smart where the action is and letting them post what they see in real time?
Because from where I sit, that's where the present of technology journalism already is.